Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?
Red pill – you will know the truth, you will work hard, practice for years and slowly, in time become a master.
Blue pill – you will be an overnight sensation with barely passable skills.
(Is there a purple pill?)
I just read an insightful rant from guitar luthier William Cumpiano. This brings up many thoughts in me about the future of developing excellence for musicians and other artists, and how the immediacy of today’s 2011 internet “sidesteps” the old version of “paying dues.”
It’s a knife that cuts both ways. That which I find hurtful, when used by others – is also the secret success weapon I carry and use myself.
He talks about how after a course of guitar building, students of his are eager to open a shop, take orders and build away.
“A master is someone who has made more mistakes than you, has made mistakes you haven’t made yet, and has learned how to embrace them–thus learning to see them coming before they happen. So you go towards mastery one mistake at a time. How many mistakes can you stand? As many as it takes to be a master. The master has persevered past the errors until he’s made all of them.”
This brings me to an interesting point. Sure, it’s easy for me to bemoan the fact that many apparently “undeserving” people skyrocket to the top – due to Youtube and Twitter’s viral possibilities.
Extreme examples are Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black – but even in my field of fingerstyle guitar, very so-so players because of their look, age, cosutme or tricks, simply “speed ahead” of the pack with their gimmick, rack up youtube hits and build a cyber following.
But – did I mention my secret weapon is that same tool that they use? I have blood on my hands too.
I’ve gotten a worldwide following, sold CDs, Books, DVDs, and gotten bookings on worldwide festivals much faster and more easily than I would have “the old way”. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like easy.
I find too, now that with these tools – I suffer the same impatience. I love the thrill of “learn it, and get it out there quick!” just like they do.
“What? Practice a piece for a year? There’s no time for that!”
I am thankful for having had some teachers who made me go slow, put the hours in and sharpen my tools – before the web even existed. I remember the days of buying a telephone answering machine which used tape! Talk about slow….
If I was a kid today, I’d have no patience for becoming a craftsman – knowing I could be a star if I had a “gimmick”. Thank God I put the hours in, and got a habit to do so.
Sooner or later, all of us – artists and listeners WILL want excellence, melody, groove and art. What a pity it would be to spend a lifetime chasing something that Rebecca Black could do in a few months.
It’s perplexing because “excellence” may no longer be the measuring stick that young artists use for themselves. For them, excellence would slow down their career too much.